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Best leather for a strop?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by fsatsil, Nov 28, 2009.

  1. fsatsil


    Sep 15, 2009
    I have made a few different strops out of old belts and scrap leather that Ive found at shoe repair shops but Id like to make a good quality one this time and use the right kind of leather. I know this has been talked about before but after some searching I haven't really found a definitive answer to what the best leather for knife sharpening is. This is what Ive found out after doing some research on razor strops, Im not sure if the same applys to knife sharpening?

    1. if using a compound/paste then you want either a good 100% hard wool felt or 7-9oz tanned cowhide

    2. if not using any paste/compound then a heavy red Latigo

    Does this sound right?? Ive found a few sellers online that sell cowhide and Latigo in 2-3in strips I might pick some up and start experimenting. Anyone know where to find the hard pressed wool felt??

  2. chococrazy


    Jul 1, 2009
    Take from me I've been through 8 strops in a month to find the best combo for me.
    This what I do.
    I went to handamerican.com (currently down sorta).
    Buy a piece of bark tanned bovine and some of their LIQUID Chromium Oxide (the small bottle is a lot).
    Go to your local Goodwill or similar (if you don't wanna shuck out the $)
    Go to their belt section and look around for a piece of leather 100% cowhide (if you have a saddle shop or shoe shop go there and you can get sheets of thinner pieces for 4~5$)
    Once you have the belt or piece of leather go to lowes or home depot, and buy some buffing compound (comes in tubes is solid) if you go to lowes get the 4 and 5 grit anything else is WAY to low lower than your stones probably.
    Now going to lowes and getting the compound is more about of how you sharpen before you go to the strop if you use a lansky then get the compound, but if you're stone can produce a really shiny mirror polish then you won't "need" this step. While you're at lowes pick up the flattest piece of wood or glass (which ever is cheaper) you can find, and a bottle of gorilla glue.
    Once all your stropping material comes in take the belt you got ( make sure it is 100% cow hide!!!!!!!!!!) take of the part with the holes and the buckle so you have a nice long strip of material. depending on your knife size you can either cut it in half or take a piece of of each end (this is where the compound from lowes goes) Gorilla glue the two pieces to your wood.
    Apply the compound by heating up the leather and rubbing it in like a crayon.
    Now we move to bark tanned bovine from handamerican.com take the bottle of Cro2 you got and apply a small squiggly line across the whole strop then rub it in like your would with toast making sure to get an even coat. If you have any of the belt left do the same to it. I wouldn't glue the Bark tanned bovine to the wood, but set it ontop of the wood and strop that way.
    Now this the order you use them in.
    Step 1. Finish hone sharpening.
    Step 2. start of with the #4 compound on the belt do about 25 strokes on each side this step should take of a good amount of metal and start making uniform scratches.
    Step 3. Take the strop with the Next highest grit (#5)
    Step 4. If you have the belt with the liquid Cro2 on it use it for about 30 strokes each side.
    Step 5. Go to the Barked Tanned Bovine and strop on it with very light pressure for 50 strokes your blade should become a mirror.
  3. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 6, 2000
    If you are using a compound, the leather really doesn't matter. You can use wood, fiber, felt, etc. Leather should be used without compound.
  4. rayban


    Apr 14, 2007
    ???????? I've never heard that one.....
  5. stitchawl


    Jul 26, 2008
    Let me re-state what Bill said, a bit differently.

    Good quality vegetable tanned leather should be used, without any compound, as the final stropping surface.

    Anything other than good quality vegetable tanned horse, cow, bull or buffalo leather, or clay coated magazine paper, for stropping, will benefit from using various compounds. You can use a wooden board, a piece of MDF or particle board, a sheet of glass, your jeans, an Armani suit jacket sleeve, etc., and it will strop well with a coating of compound on it.

    What this means is that your old leather belt, the side of your boot, a cut-up leather jacket, etc., will all benefit from an application of various compounds, but a good quality leather strop will be reduced in effectiveness by covering it up. It will still work, of course, but not give as fine a finished edge as the bare leather. Compounds are coarser than bare leather.

  6. orthogonal1


    Oct 30, 2005
    What is the cutting media present in vegetable tanned leather not present in chemical tanned leather?

    I've noticed an old Galco gun belt I have seems best bare, but I figured it was more due to the "openess" of the leather vice how it may have been tanned.
  7. fsatsil


    Sep 15, 2009
    So basically if your using compound the strop material isn't really that important, but if your not using compound then you want a high quality veg. tanned leather. I found this website http://www.eleathersupply.com/beltstrap.shtml that sells leather strips for belt making. $23 for 2inx72in natural or latigo seems like a pretty goodf deal you could make quite a few strops out of a 72in strip! Any one know any other stores that sell leather for strop making?
  8. stitchawl


    Jul 26, 2008
    Leather contains natural silicates. These tend to get removed by chemical or oil tanning, but not by vegetable tanning.

    Precisely! However... there is also tradition to keep in mind! :D
    Stropping on leather keeps up that tradition. (But any smooth hard surface will work well.) But it's foolish to spend a lot of money on a professionally made razor strop and then cover it up with a polishing compound. Use junky old leather found in the thrift shop bins as wide belts, old jackets, etc. Just remember to strop on the finished side of the leather for beveled knives and the rough side for convex edges!

    I buy my leather for stropping from 'Jantz Knifemaker's Supply.' I buy a square of veggie tanned leather, 12"x12" for $10, and cut it into three 4"x12" strops. (I prefer a wide strop.) I wet the leather well, let it sit for an hour or two until the surface color starts to come back, then roll it for 5-10 minutes with a cooking rolling pin. (A heavy marble rolling pin works best for this.) This helps to bring the natural silicates to the surface of the piece. After the leather dries completely, I mount it on a piece of wood using contact cement spread very thinly to keep the leather smooth and flat. For a strop for convex edges I like to put a very thin piece of softer leather between the strop and the wood, leaving the strop with its rough side up. (Convex ONLY!)

  9. mutinousdoug


    Sep 28, 2007
    A 5x or 10x loupe is an inexpensive and educational tool for inspecting the edge and convex of your work.
  10. Chris Pierce

    Chris Pierce Basic Member Basic Member

    Nov 15, 2006
    what will happen if I use the rough side of the leather to maintain my non-convexed blades?
  11. stitchawl


    Jul 26, 2008
    The eventual result will be a softening (rounding) of the bevel shoulder (but it would take a lot of stropping.) Bevels and micro-bevels should be maintained with a harder surfaced strop to keep the flat surfaces and crisp angles. Convex edges benefit from a softer or even a hanging strop.

    Just visualize everything enlarged to, say, carpet size instead of leather size. A soft shag carpet will ooze around the edges while a firm short pile carpet will follow the flats. This is why one would want to use cow, horse, or bull hide, rather than deer or elk hide as a strop. The latter are too soft. Personally, I like a strop made from water buffalo hide, but that can be a bitch to find in Muncie, Indiana...

  12. Chris Pierce

    Chris Pierce Basic Member Basic Member

    Nov 15, 2006
    So basically I'd just be very slowly and slightly convexing the edge? I think I can live with that.

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